Travel report from Iceland
Iceland – where magic happens and fairytales come true
A travel Report written by Lara & Flo
It’s been awhile since we started dreaming about the mystic land of ice and fire, its’ volcanoes, waterfalls and rainbows, glaciers and snow, northern lights and endless countryside more filled with sheep than people. This year the dream of discovering this amazing country finally became true- Be invited, let us tell you a little about our trip and experiences!
Doing some research before starting our trip -yeah, we’re Germans, we always do our homework- we figured taking the ring street and probably make some stops along the way might be the best for us to get to know Iceland for the first time. And how could you possibly explore this country and its nature better than in a Mini-Campervan!? We checked some pages and wrote some mails before the decision was made: Rent.is had the best offer for us. As they say on their page “the camper seats 2 and is easy to handle and sleeping accommodations are cozy.
With unlimited mileage you are care free and can travel as you please from North to South Iceland all depending upon where your next adventure is!” So for 12 days a Nissan NV200 which we named “Nessy” became our lovely home.
The flights were easily booked, WOW-air -the Icelandic version of Ryanair but much cooler not only because it’s pink but its crew is much friendlier- took us on a Saturday in only 3 hours to Keflavik Airport “Bon WOWage!” 😉
During the first two days in Reykjavik -the capital that has less inhabitants then our german hometowns which don’t appear to be too big neither- we got a taste of how the locals party. They were celebrating their capitals birthday and our Airbnb host told us afterwards that there had never been so many people in town to celebrate like there were this year -and us in the middle of that happening, yeah. With some fish & chips of course. Wait, wasn’t that Britain?
The day after it was rainy all day. Ever heard about that saying ‘if you don’t like the weather in Iceland, wait 15 minutes’? Also there is no such thing as bad weather, just wrong clothes and bad attitude.
Well, we grabbed some coffee and a bagel and went straight to the Phallus museum, holy shit! Whale penis look strange but it was quite interesting, more than disturbing, I guess the pictures speak for themselves. When in Reykjavik for the first time we recommend taking the ‘free walking tour’. A local tells you some fun facts and shows you around so you get a good overview (maybe even candy and funny drinking gloves). Thinking of that we always take such a tour when being in a city for the first time without having any regrets so far.
After two nights and immediately falling in love with “Thule” -the cutest Icelandic dog we met-, on Monday we finally got to pick up the car and start our road trip around the island.
First things first we needed to get some food at Bónus, Iceland’s cheapest supermarket, of course. Everything is expensive in Iceland but you can’t even buy some beer! At least not just like that. Like in other Scandinavian countries you have to go to a special store which apparently has crazy opening times -I mean, two hours a day? Come on! Well, we wanted to get started and didn’t want to lose too much time so the beer had to wait while we headed towards the Golden circle -one of Iceland’s main attractions.
While we were a little disappointed of Þingvellir the Geysir or better to say the Stokkur and the Gullfoss flashed us- those many people around didn’t matter, it’s just so impressive!
We stopped in Borganes to get some sleep, the Peninsula Snaefellsnes was our destination for the next day. On the way we got to see one of many stunning sunsets to follow.
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We left really early and returned to Borganes for a lunch buffet at Brákarbraut 13, delicious! That day we saw hot springs, waterfalls (Hraunfossar) and ‘the cave’ but the short hike from Arnastapi to Hellnar and back became our favourite part of the day -also I lost the tripod connection for the cam somewhere on the way this day and I just noticed it while wanting to take a selfie of us on those stunning cliffs out there, god damn! Never the less we helped ourselves out with some tricks (Thankfully smartphones nowadays got a good camera too). From Hellisandur we continued with stops at Kirkjufell and Grundarfjördur where we had breakfast with an amazing view at a picnic spot right out of town.
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A futuristic church and nice light house came to follow on the way in Stykkishólmur. We got icecream and Skýr sweets that tasted something between cowshed and chocolate at Erpsstaðir, definitely a nice place for a stop on the road. So where do you think we were heading then?
If you believe the lonely planet you find Iceland’s most beautiful landscapes in the Westfjords. And what’s even better -you won’t see too much tourists because just 14% of all visitors come here. Needless to say we wanted to go there. Most of all Florian wanted to go there because of the famous witch museum and the loneliest swimming pool Krossneslaug.
Well, if you are interested in witchcraft and stuff and spend your holidays in the Westfjords you can probably go visit -but to be honest, a visit just for that isn’t worth the long ride. What is worth every trek and exhausting road is indeed the landscape and solitude if you seek so. 9000m² loneliness (only 7500 people live in the Westfjords) and an incredible scenery everywhere you go. Last but not least Krossneslaug. At the end of road 643 you might find yourself to have an entire swimming pool and hot pot to yourself, awesome! On the way there we even saw some seals chilling in the bay. And some sheep. Well, many sheep, more sheep than people. Sometimes they make a really good roadblock.
The next day Akureyri -the norths’ pearl- wanted to be visited. About 30 km northeast on the east coast of Eyjafjörður you can see how Icelandic people lived years ago at Laufás museum. Our genius plan was to drive into the highlands to the hot springs in Hveravellir first. At that point our research failed. We have read that you could go there with a normal car and all roads on the map where marked normal roads, no F-roads, but when we got to road 35 we saw the sign: Just 4×4, no insurance for normal PKW. Oh no! What now? We were very excited to get to those hot springs but finally listened to reason. I know, you might find that boring. Us too. We are quite sure it’s possible but at that time we didn’t want to take the risk of maybe breaking the car without even having insurance. So we needed a plan B. Good for us there are so many things to do and nice spots to visit in Iceland we weren’t worried about getting bored.
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Plan B lead us to Tröllaskagi and not to a lonelier but also great swimming pool in Hofsós and finally to the northern most city Siglufjördur. The ride was less spectacular than the one through the Westfjords but also had its charm and surprises. The tunnels for example, sometimes just stone and one narrow road. The camp ground is in the middle of the city next to the harbor but we found everything we needed and it was kind of a special experience to spend the night in a camper van in the city center. Another bonus was the coffee we got at the bakery on the next corner the next day. Now we finally headed towards Akureyri just to stop by and find some (strange, well you can’t argue about that) street art and continued for whale watching experience in Húsavik.
I suggested to do whale watching any place before when I read it was possible in the guide or at a poster. Flo used to tell me to wait ‘till we get to Húsavik, there we would have a 99,9% chance to see the giants of the sea. Well, sounded quite convincing to me. So we booked our tour at our arrival in Húsavik right away. They gave us jackets to protect us from the cold and rainy weather which made us feel like a Michelin puppet, you know those big, fat commercial thing of a French tire producer?! Needless to say we got very wet and cold anyway. Sea conditions were rough this day, the ship staggered from the right to the left nearly the whole time. Not surprising that 20 of 30 visitors on board got really sick. Interesting fact: Most of them men. And all that struggle for two whale backs and a rudiment of a fin.
After a bunch of chocolate cookies Flo got better and we could dry ourselves in the heat of the camper while continuing our journey. Unluckily it wasn’t able to dry and fix the cam that would be useless for the rest of the trip and unfortunately until today as I sit here and type these lines ? Anyway, the next stay was planned on Mývatn not without making a stop to see the Goðafoss, of course. It might not be the biggest or strongest waterfall in Iceland but definitely belongs to the most beautiful ones. Its name is part of the Icelandic history. Did you know that it took only 24 hours for the Icelanders to become catholics? Well, the Goðafoss has its’ name because of the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði who threw his pagan gods into the waterfall on the way back home after making that decision.
Back to Mývatn. It is a region that holds some attractions. For all “Game of thrones”-fans: Grjótagjá is one of them. It’s the place where Jon Snow loses his virginity. You can go visit and take pictures, unluckily it’s forbidden to take a bath in the blue and hot water.
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Don’t miss the volcanic crater Hverfell!
I guess the pictures speak for themselves. And take a walk through Dimmuborgir, a cliffy lava field. Some of you might know the metal band with the same name. It means “dark castle” which describes it quite well.
We liked Hverir too also it was a little stinky over there because of the sulfur.
Starting to miss waterfalls already we drove further to the Dettifoss and its little brother the Selfoss. The Dettifoss is just 44 m high and 100 m wide but there are 193 m³ water going down each second. It’s an incredible feeling to just walk by and get totally wet. You won’t be able to talk to each other for a while because it’s just too loud because of that massive waterfall. You won’t get that sensation at Selfoss but it’s still worth a visit of the “little brother”.
Ever heard of ? You might say it’s just another one of those countless waterfalls in Iceland. For us it became a very special one. I read that there was a cave you could reach when you climb behind the waterfall so I desperately wanted to do that and go there! There was no one but us and also it’s a small waterfall compared to all the great ones it’s a very special experience to climb into that cave behind.
What made it even more special was the unexpected proposal while we were talking selfies on automatic release (with the smartphone of course, remember the cam broke during whale watching). Without knowing I had ruined all the plans Flo had for his proposal on our trip. He planned to ask me at a cliff while taking a selfie with the cam on the tripod which me myself would have adjusted just right. So while proposing he first told me he hated me. First for sending him a screenshot of a proposal on a cliff in Iceland which I had seen on Instagram and randomly sent him because it was a picture of Iceland and he always joked about proposing. Secondly because I lost the tripod connection and last but not least because the cam broke during whale watching.
Well, it wouldn’t be a right proposal without him telling me he loved me and ask me to become his wife. I’m glad he continued with this part afterwards. Somehow I even managed to stop crying and say “Yes”. By the way, the smartphone selfie isn’t so bad after all and Fardagafoss was just the right place in the right time to happily get engaged. We had engagement coffee and cake at a great place called “Klausturkaffi” that offers cake buffet! A full figured woman at the tourist information told us it would be her favorite while giving herself a smack on her bud. It was indeed delicious! We found comfort in the cakes for not seeing the Hengifoss which was hidden by fog when we reached it.
That night we stayed at Laugarfell. Two German hikers told us the next morning they were searching for the cabin for two hours because it was too foggy to find it even if they were just a few steps away as they found out later.
The next morning it was a beautiful sunny day so we got to enjoy the great landscape while taking a hike through the moss. We didn’t mind the wet feet, the rainbows over the waterfalls and the stunning green fields were just too overwhelming. Besides we knew we could warm up in the hot pots afterwards. The rest of the day we spent driving. The morning after we had waffles for breakfast at the Viking café and lobster sandwich for lunch at a snack bar in Hornafjörður before getting to the glaciar lagoon Jökulsárlón.
Again we saw seals playing in the water and enjoyed watching them for a while before heading to Skaftafell and taking the last walk of the day to one of the glaciar tongues of Vatnajökull.
The next days’ highlight was the ravine Fjárðaárgljúfur. At least we thought so before getting to the campground of Þakgil. It’s just a 15 km trip away from the ring street 1 but it’s a challenging one. We thought about turning back but we should be glad we didn’t. It has the title ‘loneliest camp ground on Iceland’ (maybe because it’s so hard to get there?) but it sure is the most stunning. The mountains around seem bizarre and it has a cave where you can have dinner (or whatever). Without knowing that shouldn’t be the highlight this day either.
When we wanted to leave the cave to clean up the dishes suddenly we got to see them: Northern lights. Just above our heads in the middle of nowhere. Green hazes of light illuminating the dark night. It was the very first time for us to see them and it left us speechless so we just stood there staring at the spectacle.
We had only some days left and liked everything else we saw on the way back. The black sanded beaches of Vík, the basaltic columns, the photogenic Skógafoss, … it’s such an amazing country!
The last day we thought about visiting the famous Blue Lagoon. It was sold out for the day when we got there. So, if you like to get in, take the posters seriously and book in advance, you can do that online. A little disappointed at first we found a fabulous camping spot in Garður and even got to swim in a pool near also it was already closing.
Thanks to the people who allowed us to get in we could take a shower before heading back home the next morning. Besides, we’ve already been to another less known but also
nice blue lagoon near Mývatn where we even got student discount. So that’s it, after 12 days of camper van adventure and around 3500 km later we had to drop “Nessy” of at Keflavik airport and return from the fairy-tale back to real life. We hope you enjoyed our story. We definitely enjoyed Iceland and our trip and will be back for more someday (maybe to sink in a highland river while crossing it to get to the other side? We heard that happened to people on the way…).
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